30 September 2005

The solution to judicial activism

Well, John Roberts is our new Chief Justice. I for one am glad, though many conservatives are not because of failure to assert a strong position on Roe. Then again was his refusal to answer question about hypothetical cases.

My friend and former seminary classmate, Lee Johnson, chided Republicans in a recent post:

Is Roberts a Thomas or a Kennedy? I fear that the hearings will be pointless. I fear that Republicans will try to argue you should not get to vote against a judge because of judicial philosophy, which is why Republican overwhelmingly approved Ruth Ginsburg. Then they turn around and whine about judicial activism. "Thoughts on John Roberts," Two-Edged Sword, 10 September 2005, www.twoedgedsword.blogspot.com.

Lee, the answer to judicial activism is not in the confirmation process. Judicial activism is, by definition, something that judges engage in; it is something that they do. And as we have seen, it is difficult to talk about solving the problem when there are those who want to pretend that they don't know what the definition of judicial activism is. (Or, worse, they really don't know what the definition is.)

Since judicial activism is something that judges do, the solution to judicial activism is judicial restraint. Judges must restrain themselves; there can be no prior and external restraint placed on judges by either a president or the senate. The reason is that we now live in a culture of power politics, as opposed to legal politics. What I mean by that is that it is acceptable for people in office to do things because they have the power to do, not because they have the legal authority to do (as long as what they do is for the little guy). Right now, judicial activism is as much a part of our culture as reality TV. And, like reality TV, judicial activism began with a small, almost inaudible shot (in Marbury v. Madison), before it became the avalanche it has been since just about the Warren Court. I'm sure putting an end to it won't be an overnight task.

To try to use the confirmation process at this point in history, is engage in more power politics. We have the Senate; we have the Executive. Our nominees get in. And, while they ought to get in on the basis of judicial philosophy, the people don't know enough about federalism (thank you, NEA, multiculturalists, and, well, leftists, generally) to know how significant a thing judicial philosophy really is.

So here, Lee, is why Republicans can at the same time confirm nominees and "whine" about judicial activism: the Constitution says that the President gets to appoint judges with the advice and consent of the Senate; it is judges, not the Senate, who must end the activism. The "advice and consent clause" is not about examining a nominee's judicial philosophy; it is about checking cronyism. That's what the Federalist papers say, anyway:

To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration. (Federalist 76,para. 9)

Only outright crooks, not people with whom we disagree philosophically, ought to be denied a seat on the Court. To do otherwise is simply to use raw political power to try to effect a predetermined outcome, which is what judicial activism is. And even if I wanted to concede that the Senate could put some sort of check on judicial activism, that will be very difficult to do until our culture is arrayed against such activism. Right now, that it not the case. In order for it to one day be the case, we shall have to educate the public about federalism...and the Calvinist world and life view from which it comes.
29 September 2005

...and the quarterback is toast

Tom DeLay has been indicted. Wow. Here's the text of the indictment. Read it and see if you can see what the indictment specifies that Tom DeLay did. It does a very good job of specifying what John Colyandro did. But, after you finish reading, ask yourself this question: What did Tom Delay do? What action did he perform? (And here is the provision of Texas State election law which DeLay is alleged to have violated, if you want to undertake the reading of it. It isn't exactly scintillating; but it is informative.) Although the indictment says that DeLay agreed with Colyandro's acts, so far it looks to me as if Delay is being indicted for merely being associated with John Colyandro. We'll see, I'm sure, what sort of documentary evidence is presented at trial to demonstrate this agreement. (And if any such evidence as is presented fails to demonstrate this collusion, have no doubt that DeLay's enemies will say, "Well, of course, it just means he covered his tracks.")

Of course, it doesn't matter how any of this turns out. In practical political terms, DeLay--in many respects the driving force behind the conservative Republican agenda (such as it has been)--is toast.

Against "settled" precedents

Much is made about legal precedent, especially during confirmation hearings. When asked about Roe v. Wade, Judge Roberts acknowledged that Roe is a precedent. I understand that he had to acknowledge this; it is at least true. (Some conservatives have been concerned that he did not make a statement a little more strenuously pro-life. But look, he's a judge, not a candidate for elective office. He ought not campaign for a seat on the bench. The issue for a judge--again--is not what the law should be; the issue is what is the law. But I digress.)

What concerns me about all this talk about precedent is that Democrats seem to be urging the idea that no decision of a supreme court may later be overturned by that same court. That just doesn't square with our Constitutional history.

It would be nice if I had time to discuss several cases in which the Court overturned a prior decision. But if we just take the implicit categorical proposition that, "For all Supreme Court decisions the Supreme Court does not overturn its prior decisions," all we need is a counter-example. So, I offer one.

Just this summer, in Roper v Simmons, the Supreme Court overturned, Stanford v Kentucky (492 U.S. 361 [1989]) a decision handed down a mere 15 years ago. In Stanford (to be quite brief), the Court held that a minor's being given the death penalty did not violate the Eighth Amendment. In Roper, the Court asserted that such a penalty did in fact violate the Eighth Amendment.

Well, there it is, then. The Court does reverse itself. And since the Left are so concerned about Roe, we ought to ask: How is it possible that Stanford can be overturned, but not Roe? (Former Labor Secretary Reich would probably tell us that, unlike Stanford, Roe is a "super, super, super dooper [what the heck?!] precedent."

One thing that concerns me about "settled" legal precedent is that we, a supposedly free people, have to live by rules that are settled--extra-constitutionally, I might add--by people who are not elected. And, what is more, according to the Left, once it is "settled" it is never to be subject to scrutiny again.

In no other shere of life is there such a principle. Think about it. I can never win an argument with my wife by staking out a position, appealing to my superiority by virtue of being the "man of the house," [Ha!] and then telling her that the issue is settled. What a joke. And even if I did declare some matter "settled" my wife would hardly feel obligated not to ask again at a later time. After all, what if, later on, some new facts indicate that the issue I settled should really have been settled in some other way?

But the courts, apparently, can do this. They formulate rules that we have to live by, and which are insulated from change by the need for a Constitutional amendment. They decide that these rules are "settled" legal principles which in many cases remove issues from venues in which they can be settled by the voting public. And that is my biggest problem with the Roe decision: it decided a very important issue by simply removing it from the democratic process. And I fail to see how anyone who has actually read the Roe decision can possibly think that is represents "good law". It is very clear that the Court arbitrarily decided to settle the issue--period. It's just not very republican. (Note the lower case 'r'.)
28 September 2005

Sunday School public policy lessons?

Hillary Clinton, speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus, said she attended Sunday School as a child, but must have missed the lesson on taking care of the rich rather than the poor. Yes? Well, I also missed several lessons, apparently. I missed the lesson on patting yourself on the back for taking care of the poor with money that isn't yours, and in fact was stolen from rich people. I also missed the lesson which taught us that taking care of the poor is the government's responsibility and not mine.

ATTENTION LIBERALS: Don't tell me that I fulfill my obligation to the poor through actions taken--on my behalf--by my government. You may as well try to tell me that I can fulfill my sexual obligations to my wife through some actions taken--on my behalf--by my government. (Yes and I'm sure I know a certain former president who would like to head up that governmental department!) In both cases, I flatter myself to think I can do a better job! (There is a logical fallacy [i.e., composition] involved in this liberal assertion, but I don't want to trouble them about logic. Many of them just can't--and wont--be bothered with it.)

Oh, yeah! Who really cares what Hillary Clinton was taught in Sunday School? From a Democrat perspective it can have no possible relevance to politics. After all, Democrats are the same people who by and large remind us of the "separation" of church and state when Republicans talk about ethical issues they care about, issues which have even the most tenuous of connections to Scripture. So what about that, Hillary? What about that "separation" of church and state thing?
16 September 2005

Senatorial silliness

It really galls me that a judicial nominee must submit to the advice and consent of a senate that is populated by people who just are not very bright. I offer two examples from Tuesday's (13 September 2005) proceedings.

Senator Leahy asked Judge Roberts about the disposition of matters if Congress passed a law requiring the removal all U.S. troops from a foreign country, etc. Judge Roberts decline to answer the question on the grounds that it would be improper to declare how he might rule in a case that could come before the court. Senator Leahy: "Isn't this Horn Book law? I don't know of any case on its way to the Supreme Court." Roberts replied that it was at least possible because there were cases which arose during the Vietnam conflict and came before the Court. Now, to give Senator Leahy his due, he did make an important distinction: the cases which came before the court during the Vietnam conflict did not involve a law passed by Congress--over a presidential veto--requiring the removal of troops. But even so, look at Senator Leahy's logic: a case such as he describes is not on its way to the Supreme Court; therefore it would be permissible to Roberts to answer. But Roberts did not say that he declined to answer questions about cases which were on their way to the Court; he declined to answer questions regarding cases which could come before the court. Leahy's logic is this: A has not happened, or is not happening, therefore it will not happen. This is like saying, "I am not presently dying: therefore I will never die--or at least not during your lifetime."

Then there is Senator Joe Biden, who wanted to address the refusal to answer such questions--known as The Ginsberg Rule. He asked Roberts, rhetorically, whether Ginsberg followed her own rule. Well, according to Biden, she did not, because when she was asked if she agreed with a decision made recently by the court (i.e., just before she was nominated) she said she did. So Biden wanted to use Ginsberg's failure--or refusal--to abide by her own rule as some sort of precedent. There are two problems with this attempt by Biden here. First, note Biden's logic: She broke a rule; therefore Roberts should break the same rule. This is the sort of poor logic that teenagers offer their parents: "But Johnny drives without a license!" (And Democrats insist that they are intellectually sharper than Republicans.) Second, as I understood the exchange, Biden wanted Roberts to answer questions about hypothetical cases--cases which had not yet come before the Court. But the question which Justice Ginsberg chose to answer was about a case that had already been decided by the court. So she was not being asked to pre-judge a case. That Biden could not distinguish the two cases indicates to me that he is not qualified to advise or consent with respect to judicial nominees.

Now, my friend Lee, over at Two-Edged Sword, probably has not been very happy. He had hoped that Roberts would answer the Senators' questions. I certainly hope that, upon reflection, Lee will recognize that telling us how he would decide certain cases, in order to get senate confirmation is tantamount to running for office. (Did anyone notice Shumer's exhortations to Roberts, "...if you want to get my vote..."?) And, as Roberts himself put it (in response to Senator Biden's assertion that if senator's did not declare their positions they could not get elected): Judges don't stand for election.

I for one was satisfied by the only real answer Roberts could give on the question of his judicial philosophy. When asked if we would be for the little guy of the big guy, Roberts replied, "If the Constitution says that the little wins, then the little guy wins. If the Constitution says that the big guy wins, then the big guy wins."

Too many questions have focused on Roberts beliefs about matters other than the law and his approach to it. (And asking how he will/would decide specific cases hardly counts.) It makes no difference what he thinks about Civil Rights, any more than it makes a difference what a baseball umpire thinks about the size of the strike zone!
13 September 2005

It's always your fault--even when it's my watch

This will be a short blog. It will also, I think, be my last on anything related to Hurricance Katrina.

It is a singular irony, is it not? The same people (i.e., Democrats) who hounded President Bush to admit at least one mistake regarding the war in Iraq--and criticized him vehemently when he would not--will not breathe a hint of any wrong-doing with respect to the disaster in New Orleans. Nothing about any of this is any Democrat's fault. When a major heatwave killed over 700 in Chicago back in 1995, I just don't recall Republicans claiming that President Clinton was responsible. I don't even recall whether anyone claimed that Mayor Daly was responsible. Incredible.

Now, I agree with Charles Krauthamer: there really is plenty of blame to go around. But to listen to Democrats, everything about this is Republicans' fault; it is just a matter of figuring out how. And nothing in the way of any blame is to be laid at the feet of Mayor Nagin (who, if he had any sense of honor, would fall on his sword) and Governor Blanco. One would think that FEMA is an interstate first-responder; it isn't. Local and state organizations--in that order--are the first responders.

What troubles me further is the number of Republicans who have jumped on the big, bad Blame-Bush Bandwagon. I am with Laura Ingraham: I would like to see more backbone on the part of Republicans on all this.

As I stated in a previous post, there are issues regarding federalism that are raised by the disaster--and the Democratic response to it. It is time to start paying attention to the nomination hearings on Judge Roberts.
09 September 2005

Worth the reading

Victor Davis Hanson, Our Perfect Storms, Jewish World Review, 8 September 2005

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak, 'Population Bomb' Bombs With the Birth Dearth, Jewish World Review, Jewish World Review, 9 September 2005

By Rich Lowry, Bureaucracy at work, Jewish World Review, 9 September 2005
08 September 2005

Stop whining, and save yourself.


At least one lesson from New Orleans is this: No bureaucracy can protect you or save you. Oftentimes it is true that If you want something done right you've got to do it yourself. From that it sometimes follows that if we want our asses saved we've got to save our own asses. (Yes, it's all right for a Christian to believe that, while he cannot save himself from the judgment that follows death, there are still many things from which he can--and even should--save himself. After all, it was, apparently, all right for Jacob to save himself and his family from a famine by purchasing grain in Egypt. It was all right for Paul to save himself from an unfair trial by appealing to Caesar. If my house gets broken into by violent men, I fully intend to use either my .45 or my .357--depending on my mood--to protect my wife...and anyone or anything else. And I make no apologies.)

Of course, we all need help from time to time. So--and here's a novel idea--we can sometimes band together as a group and help each other. We saw some of that on TV going on in New Orleans. A few people decided not to wait for others to come to their rescue. All it takes is a willingness to work together, a little bit of energy, and some time.

All the time that those looters were waiting to be "saved," waiting for their government to stop "abandoning" them, was time that could have been spent banding together and helping. (I saw one woman had an inflatable raft, which she was using to carry off her booty. I suppose she could think of no other purpose for such an apparatus.)

All those looters certainly had plenty of energy and time. Many of them seemed willing enough to band together in order to rape, murder, and pillage.

They could have helpful. But they were so much less.

That, of course, raises the question: Why the looting?

Thomas Sowell (Rebuilding New Orleans -- and America, Real Clear Politics, 6 September 2005) and Robert Tracinski, An Unnatural Disaster: A Hurricane Exposes the Man-Made Disaster of the Welfare State, The Intellectual Activist, 2 September 2005) have written two fine essays offering reasons for, or causes of, the looting we witnessed on the news in New Orleans. Their explanations, as you might imagine, differ from those offered by Harry Connick, Jr., Celine Dion, Oprah Winfrey, and others.

I understand that, "Save your own ass!" doesn't sound very compassionate, not very Christian, but let's think about this. Say that it's three hundred years ago and you and a handful of people are all by yourselves in that area. A hurricane comes along and the entire area floods. Who's going to save you and your friends? No one, that's who. You must save yourself.

"Yes," you say, "but James, we have a government now. And it is government's responsibility to save us."

Well, there are in fact three governments. There are local (i.e., city and county) governments, state governments, and then the federal government. The constituents of the federal government are the states. (Gosh! I feel like I've said something like this before.) In a federal system, the governments which have primary responsibility for saving your ass are the local and state, in that order. Why? Because you, personally, are a constituent of those governments--not the federal government.

Besides, if the government has a duty to save your ass, that means that I have that duty. How do you come to have a right against me, that I should save you...from anything.
07 September 2005

What about federalism?

My old seminary-mate, Lee Johnson, finds fault with a post by another old seminary-mate of mine, Matt Powell. A recent post at Matt's blog contains a brief defense of Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina--which Lee characterizes as "slow".

Now, while Lee does make some fine points about the contraversy, I wonder if Lee missed something in Matt's blog. Lee says that it points out some things that Bush did right. But then he compares the alacrity with which Bush became involved in Florida (which I have actually criticized) with his slowness in getting involved in New Orleans. I wonder if Lee has not thought that perhaps the difference is not in Bush, but in the respective state governments: How much sooner did Governor Jeb Bush ask for federal aid than Governor Blanco? Also: when we talk about when Bush got involved in La., are we talking about when he got publicly and visibly involved? Or do we include any phone conversations he had with Gov. Blanco and/or Mayor Nagin while he was on his so-called vacation? (I have heard, though not yet confirmed, that Bush asked either Blanco or Nagin to order a mandatory evacuation, or request federal assistance, days before it was actually ordered, or requested.) It is interesting to note that the Mission Statement for the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness contains this very interesting passage:
"We coordinate all city departments and allied state and federal agencies which respond to city-wide disasters and emergencies through the development and constant updating of an integrated multi-hazard plan. All requests for federal disaster assistance and federal funding subsequent to disaster declarations are also made through this office" (emphases mine).
That same document (i.e., "Emergency Guide for Citizens") also contains this provision (with respect to all those poor people who could not evacuate):
During the Recommended Phase of Evacuation:
1. The City of New Orleans Emergency Operating Center (EOC) is staffed for 24-hour operation.
2. Local transportation will be mobilized to assist persons who lack transportation.
3. Bus routes and locations of staging areas for those needing transportation to shelters in or out of the Parish, will be announced via radio and television.
4. Relatives and neighbors should help family and friends who need transportation and other assistance.

It would appear that items 2 and 3 were not done. Did you see the aerial photographs of all those school buses underwater?

For my money, if people are going to say that they are responsible to do something and then fail to do it, the issue of culpability has been resolved. The City of New Orleans had a plan; the plan was not followed. Mayor Nagin is a disgrace; so is Governor Blanco. (And yes, as a matter of fact, I do think I'd have done a better job. Governor Blanco still had more than two-thirds of her Guard available for deployment. As of 23 May 2005, Louisiana's Army and Air Guard numbered approximately 11,500 (Source: GlobalSecurity.org, of which 3,000 (i.e., 26 percent) are in Iraq, leaving 8,500 (i.e., 74 percent) which could have been deployed. Why weren't they? How many more than that 8,500 would Blanco have needed? Now that Guard units from three other states have been deployed there, how many are there now?)

I don't really care about defending Bush. That is because I do not think he needs defending. I am a federalist. Much of the vitriol over all this stems from a deplorable ignorance of what federalism is all about--and how it works. And it concerns me because I know that there are those who will attempt to parley this into yet another increase in the power of the increasingly-not-so-federal government, giving to it police powers--which is does not have, depite--apparently--much belief to the contrary. (This belief is evidenced by the number of people who will assert simply that the government "abandoned" the people of New Orleans. By this they apparently mean the federal government. The governments of the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana get no mention; they are irrelevant; they do not exist. Only someone who believes that the federal government has extensive police powers could do this.)

Hugh Hewitt has a blog (you'll have to scoll down a bit) on, among other things, what it is, or would be, for the federal government to have police powers. I suppose there will be those--there always are--who will assert that abstract principles such as federalism ought not take precedence over human life. But you just let the federal government acquire the power to define and then assert a "state of emergency" and who knows the circumstances under which we will see federal troops deployed to enforce law. As illustrated beautifully by George Lucas, in "Revenge of the Sith", (but even more beautifully in the histories of actual tyrannies) tyrannies can comfortably begin when a government is granted broad police powers to deal with a "state of emergency". And "human life" won't mean spit after that.

Following Saint Benedict's exhortation (47), I keep death constantly before my eyes; I have accepted it. But I'm not dead yet. And as long as I am alive I prefer to live free, so I'll take my chances against Nature: she is much less tyrannical than any government, and so is her God.
06 September 2005


You can always count on superficial, and therefore stupid, Christians to give yet another reason for smart people not to consider Christ.

Apparently, according to the sort of superficial Christians I'm talking about (source: a caller to Dennis Prager, 1st Hour, KNUS-AM 2 September 2005), what has happened to New Orleans is a judgment of God because of all of the homosexuality and pornography and so forth in that city. When people speak this way, they are tacitly claiming to be prophets; to say that some event constitutes a judgment of God is to claim to be a prophet.

Most non-Christians who come into contact with stupid Christians probably think that the stupidity of stupid Christians is the result of spending too much time reading the Bible. This was my experience when I was a non-Christian. In actual point of fact, this sort of stupidity is really due to not spending enough time studying the Bible. Had stupid Christians spent time studying the Bible instead of trying to prophesy they might know that Jesus taught that not every bad thing that happens is a judgment of God:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:1-5)

How could real, Bible-reading Christians have missed such a passage?

Oh yeah. One more thing. When a Christian says that an event is a judgment of God, he had better not be speculating; he better be right. The reason is simple: the person who says that such and such is a judgment of God is, as I mentioned above, acting the part of a prophet. And the Scriptures provide both a two-fold test and a stiff penalty for false prophets. (And here we come to another evidence that stupid Christians are stupid Christians because they do not know the Scriptures.) The two-fold test is this: (1) the so-called prophet makes a declaration, regarding the future (not the past) which comes to pass; and (2) does not, on the basis of his accurate declaration, attempt to lead people away from the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (See Deuteronomy 13:1-5) Note that we cannot test what these pretended prophets prophesy: the event about which they offer an interpretation (i.e., prophetic word) comes before they speak. Unless one can find some passage of Scripture which asserts that every natural disaster is a judgment of God upon the people upon whom said disaster falls, one simply has no warrant for the assertion that this or that disaster was a judgment. And the logic of such a position would look something like this:

1. According to the Bible every natural disaster is an act of judgment upon the people who live in that area (cite said passage here).
2. A natural disaster occured in New Orleans (and no where else, apparently).
3. Therefore, the disaster was a judgment of God.

The problem with this sort of argument is that propositions 1 and 2 are false. The Bible makes no such assertion about disasters. And New Orleans was not the only place touched by disaster. Indeed, once the economic implications of all this are truly felt, we shall see that this disaster will affect even those against whom God cannot possibly have intended any judgment.

Silly Christians, prophecy is for prophets!
02 September 2005

I have a right to live where I want...

...at your expense, of course.

Dennis Hastert is in trouble for asking a reasonable question: Should New Orleans be re-built? The fact that he is in trouble for merely asking the question is indicative to me of just how much the American people, or at least a certain segment, just cannot and will not abide rationality.

"Why should the question be asked?" you may wonder. The question should be asked because, as I mentioned in a previous post, New Orleans has been sinking for a long, long, long, long, time. It is now 5 feet below sea level; when it was founded it was not below sea level. If and when New Orleans is re-built, it will continue to sink. (Who knows? It may then be ready for a new nickname. Instead of the Big Easy, maybe we will take to calling it the Low Down.) That is just one problem. The other problem is that the Mighty Mississippi will continue to dump silt, which means that the levees will be continually be in need of shoring up. This means that, however long it takes, another disaster such as we have seen this week will happen again. Is it smart to build a city on a patch of real estate everyone knows is sinking? Would you buy, or build, a house on a piece of real estate that you knew was sinking when you purchased it? Would you even purchase it? Would you think you were being smart if you did so? If a friend of yours did so, would you think he was being intelligent in doing so? (More importantly: How would you feel if he insisted on doing so with some of your money?)

"Where is your Christian compassion?" you may ask. New Orleans is where these people live. Their homes are there. Well, I am a Christian; I do feel--A LOT!!!--for these people. I can't think about all this for very long without crying. (And I am not easily moved to tears.) But, that being said, I am a Calvinist and that means that I believe in the application of wisdom to life, the right application of knowledge. So I am also, as a good Calvinist, committed to science, without driving an artificial wedge between "faith" and "science" as if there is no element of faith in any science (but that's a subject for a different post, on another day).

The application of the results of scientific research must lead one to the conclusion that, with all that we know now about the site on which the city was built, re-building the city there just would not be wise. Let us say that there was no city there right now. No responsible person would propose founding a city on that site. So why should the city be "refounded"? (In fact, I have heard, though not yet confirmed, that the local native Americans warned the French not to build a city there because, well, it floods. That was 300 hundred years ago .)

The only people who could support re-building New Oleans are people who like to allow sentimentality trump rationality. Frankly, I would like to see much less sentimentality about this and a lot more honest rationality. But I'm sure I won't see that.

But what about people who built in earthquake zones, or hurricane zones? Fine. But we are not talking about a city built in a hurricane zone. We are talking about re-building a sinking city! (On second thought maybe the Big Easy will be called the Big Money Pit.)

I suppose someone could say that, as a believer in liberty, I must be committed to the view that people can live wherever they want. And so I am. But then, I'll just have to say that I don't believe that anyone but you should pay for where you live. If the citizens of New Orleans truly want to rebuilt the Low Down fine by me, as long as they aren't going to demand federal dollars to do so. And it is only the fact that the site is sinking that motivates me to say this. All other things being equal, I wouldn't be saying this at all.

I don't understand why those who think that the city should be rebuilt can't just say so without demanding an apology from Hastert for asking an intelligent question. The responses to his asking the question are nothing more than a whole lot of emoting. I would like to see--and hear--less emoting, and more thinking.
01 September 2005

God is in His Heaven...

...well, in his White House, actually.

Listening to Dan Kaplis and Craig Silverman (KHOW-AM, Denver, Co. 31 August 2005) wondering whether or not the President dropped the ball on the hurricane. Apparently, there is something that the President needed to do, that he could not do while on "vacation". He just had to get back to the White House; or maybe he was supposed to go to New Orleans. (Who knows? Perhaps he could have stood in the Big Easy and said to the storm, "Peace! Be still!") Because, according to Silverman, his primary concern is the welfare and safety of the people. Wow. And what, pray tell, is the primary concern of, Oh, I don't know, a state governor, or a city mayor? I happen to believe that the President's primary concern is the welfare and safety of the union by executing the laws of the union (i.e., federal laws). The people live in states; the President should not have to worry about a single U.S. city--not even in a hurricane. And when and if states need federal aid they can just ask. We have a Federal Emergency Management Administration. Federal response should be already defined by law, needing nothing more then automatic execution. And if that is not the case, then it is a legislative problem. The President's personal involvement would only be eye-wash, and--if I were a state governor--offensive to the highest degree. The president is the commander-in-chief of our armed forces; he is not the Governor-in-Chief of each and every state!

According to Caplis: The president was two steps behind on two levels: (1) Verbal leadership, and (2) The actual supply of aid.

First, verbal leadership, as I've already mentioned, should have been wholly unnecessary. Louisiana has a governor. Was she providing no verbal leadeship? She wasn't on vacation, was she? I saw quite a bit of her on TV, so I am pretty certain she was providing at least verbal leadership. Mayor Nagin was pretty visible also.

With respect to the supply of aid. Caplis says it should have been in place ahead of time. It was too late, really, when the president finally got around to offering it. Let's say this is true. Why does all this have to await a personal order from the President? If the provision of federal aid must await a golden invitation from the President of the United States, does that not connote a weakness in our federal emergency management system?

Both Caplis and Silverman agreed in that one of the things for which Bush is blame-worthy is the amount of time he had to respond to this. He knew--as we all did--for days how bad this would be. He (personally, of course, because everyone is just waiting for him to tell them what to do) should have had everything in place ahead of time. George Bush--personally, like a micro-manager--should have seen to all of this. Well, if possessing prior knowledge is what makes one culpable for something then Caplis and Silverman should have a look at some internet resources which will give them a better idea of who should have responded and had everything in place ahead of time. They can start with this Wikipedia article; and they might find Jim Wilson's 2001 article, New Orleans is Sinking, (Popular Mechanics, 11 September 2001 [accessed 31 August 2005]), also enlightening. New Orleans has been sinking for more than just decades, including the years during which Bill Clinton was President. Could not Bill Clinton have done something about that? Why has no Louisiana governor or New Orleans mayor been on top of this? If Caplis and Silverman want to talk about who should have done what due to the amount of warning, they may very well do so. The list is long and distinguished; and it need not include the present executive office holder. Dropped the ball? Please.

And I am not saying all this just to defend Bush. His predecessor was all over the place in emergencies and I objected to his ubiquitousness for the same reasons. I found it offensive that he thought he needed to be some place where something bad had happened--as if no one can possibly have a clue what to do unless and until the President, God Manifest in the Flesh, shows up to direct them. Suddenly, by his mere physical presence, everything is all right.

One more thing. Caplis and Silverman made a bit of the fact that when the President was campaigning last, he went down to Florida after the devastation there. If he had been campaigning this year, he would surely have gone to Louisiana, they claim. Now, on this one I agree. However, I must sadly agree because the only reason anyone would have for visiting a disaster is really that people are superficial. Nothing about any disaster changes just because a president--or any politician campaigning for office--shows up. (I for one was not a bit impressed by his going to Florida.) And if you want to say that, yes, but his being there can be of comfort to people. I can only respond that there is only one person who can show up and give me comfort in a disaster area. And he has never sought my vote.



About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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